Well, I can finally say, “I did it!” after several years of varied experimentation with sourdough, I have finally achieved what I was aiming for. I really can’t believe it.
I experimented with high hydration doughs, low hydration doughs, all kinds of different formulations of doughs, timing, temperatures, autolyse, no autolyse, flour blends, different starters, motherdoughs,etc. If you look back in this blog you will find so many different experiments including some that were not too successful. It is a kind of history of my love affair and addiction to sourdough baking. I was very much stuck on wet or high hydration doughs for a very long time. I experimented with lower and medium hydration doughs too, but I was pretty much stuck on high hydration doughs. Recently, I became more driven to accomplish what I have been aiming for, that is, a San Francisco style sourdough that was light, airy, sour, with a crisp, crunchy crust and the wonderful color and flavor I fantasized had to be possible. I aspired to accomplish this in a home setting with a boring, plain oven and whatever I could come up with for tools. I shared my experimentation on my blog and started a small at home business selling collected sourdough starters and sourdough baking equipment. I can tell you I have never had so much fun and experienced so much passion over something. I know a lot of you are addicted to sourdough baking and getting the elusive “perfect loaf”. I know because I have had literally hundreds of emails asking me questions and hoping for help. I started a sourdough forum for that reason.
Anyway to get back to the ultimate loaves. On the forum , we had recently been discussing the “sour” factor of sourdough bread and how difficult it was to acheive consistantly, in a white sourdough loaf. I have also been working on putting together my book on my “Sourdough Discovery” and have a group of testers working on testing the recipes. Some of the recipes dealt with my favorite “Motherdough” recipes. The flavor of motherdough sourdough so outstrips the competition, that you just can’t compare it to regular sourdough breads. But I wasn’t getting a consistant “sour.” I was doing a lot of research for my book and have Michael Suas book on “Advanced Bread and Pastry”, Raymond Calvel’s book on “The Taste of Bread” and the expensive, important book by Karel Kulp and Klaus Lorenz , “Handbook of Dough Fermentations”, which shares the work done by Frank Sugihara, and many other scientists and microbiologists, on the scientific side of fermenting dough and starters. Invaluable stuff! I learned about when the dough was capable of producing the most acetic acid, which helped me in my technique. I learned about keeping starters at the right temperature to promote the growth of the bacteria which produces the flavor in sourdough breads. I was challenged by Arthur in the forum to come up with a “sour” in sourdough bread. So I was working on lower hydration motherdoughs at 60 and 70 percent hydration. They were really beautiful loaves with great flavor:
I mixed up the dough using the regular autolyse. Then I put the dough into a dough folding trough. I put the whole trough with lid into the heated dishwasher. I had a thermometer in the dishwasher and turned the heating coil back on whenever the temperature fell too low. I kept the dough warm for several hours.
When the dough looked like this, I folded it:
Seeing how fluffy and light weight the crumb is:
This was a low hydration dough at 61 % hydration, and it achieved that holey, light fluffy crumb! These two pound loaves felt like maybe a pound each, they were so light.